(Orange, Texas)

August 17, 2013

Departments take cuts as budget talks start for county

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — With a $6.5 million deficit, the county is looking for areas to cut the budget.

Orange County Commissioners Court is looking at each departments requests for the 2013/2014 fiscal budget and searching for alternatives.

Orange County Road and Bridge was asked to place $300 thousand for road materials on hold for now until the court can revisit the request at a later date.

“Historically, the county waits until the end of the fiscal year and purchases the materials for next year based on what is left,” County Engineer Clark Slacum said during a recent budget workshop meeting. “I need materials to build roads. We use it all. If $300 thousand is cut, we will have to do a lot less next year.”

Road materials bought this year will be used for road construction next year. If the budget is cut, it will affect how much material Road and Bridge can buy next year and the amount of road work that can b accomplished in 2015.

Commissioner Pct. 4 Jody Crump asked Slacum to compile information showing how much road material was actually used this year to show how much may be actually needed.

“I would like to see the actual expenditures for the year,” Crump said.

Commissioner Pct. 3 John Banken asked about records to show the maintenance on equipment.

“You need to report on maintenance so we can keep track of it, including mechanic hours,” Banken said.

Slacum said records are kept including replacing mower decks.

“I am not requesting new equipment this year,” Slacum said. “The equipment is getting older which means more maintenance.”

Slacum also added that he has yet to replace the truck driver the court recently approved to help with the budget.

“I am not saying anyone will be laid off,” Banken said. “If a person quits or retires, think hard about replacement. You will have to convince me before I vote to approve to replace.”

The court also looked at options for the County Collection Site located on FM 1442.

Slacum requested to have a small bathroom construction at the location.

“We have used a portable restroom,” Slacum said. “To me it is like throwing money down the drain.”

The portable unit costs the county $100 a month.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux suggested the trailer which previously housed Adult Probation.

“It may be overkill but it is something available,” Thibodeaux said. “It is something the county already owns.”

Thibodeaux also said the county does not want to build anything else right now.

Thibodeaux questioned Slacum’s request for an cover over the compactor units. Slacum requested the cover to help protect citizens from the rain.

“We are only open two days a week,” Slacum said. “So yes, they come out in the rain.”

Thibodeaux said the funds for the project could stay in the budget for now.

Constable Pct. 2 David Cagle asked the court to disregard his capital outlay requests.

“After hearing the situation the county is in, I can live without them,” Cagle said. “I came in person instead of sending a note to show the requests are not frivolous.”

Cagle said he is going with the original budget the county auditor recommended.

Orange County Parks Department’s request for a new security gate for Claiborne West Park is on hold for one year.

“We can look at replacing the gate next year,” Thibodeaux said. “There is already a way to block vehicles from entering the park.”

Orange County Parks Director Donna Scales asked the court to consider the part-time employees in the Parks Department.

“The parks are open all year long, even on holidays,” Scales said. “If regular employees get a raise, please consider our part-timers as well.”

Park part time employees currently receive $8.76 an hour.

Management Information Systems Director Lisa Reeves told the court that her requests for software and programming are based on new requirements for e-filing. The requirements are state mandated.

Commissioner Pct. 1 David Dubose told Reeves that she could have the computer from his office.

“I would rather use my Ipad,” Dubose said.

Thibodeaux said it was difficult concerning the MIS budget requests because most came from request for other departments.

“We are asking Lisa to defend what other departments want,” Thibodeaux said.

Budget talks continue 10 a.m. Tuesday as the commissioners look at the Agrilife Extension Service Office and the Veteran’s Office budgets.